Fat Joe: “This was my second album. I would’ve been extinct in hip-hop if I didn’t step my game up lyrically. Because this is around the time that Nas, Biggie, and then Jay-Z came out. So the game was getting real lyrical. You couldn’t away with, ‘Bust it, check it, watch how I wreck it.’ I couldn’t get away with that. If that was the case, you were played out. So I studied a lot of Nas, and a lot of other artists, and I analyzed the game, and knew I had to step up my game lyrically.
“Of course, KRS-One is my idol. My three main idols were LL Cool J, KRS-One, and Heavy D. Actually being from the Bronx, and seeing the growth of KRS-One, I think I’m his number-one fan ever.
I would’ve been extinct in hip-hop if I didn’t step my game up lyrically. Because this is around the time that Nas, Biggie, and then Jay-Z came out. So the game was getting real lyrical. You couldn’t away with, ‘Bust it, check it, watch how I wreck it.’ I couldn’t get away with that.
“I was there the first time he did ‘South Bronx’ at a block party. So to actually have him come to the studio and work with me, and then rap on the record with the guy who I know is a million times better than me and still have to represent myself was a big challenge. And it was the biggest honor.
“After the success of my first album, and the success of ‘Flow Joe’ kind of faded, I was struggling to make some money and make ends meet. And KRS knew that, so he took me on the road with him, and I was [his hype man]. I was kind of like his Flava Flav at the time.
“So when I started doing my second album, I knew I was going to do a song with him. The problem was, I didn’t want to get shitted on [Laughs.] So I knew I had to step my lyrics up and talk that shit. And I think I did pretty well.
“For ‘Bronx Tale,’ I just wanted that hard shit. At this point, I was just so hard [Laughs]. I don’t even know how to explain it to you. I just wanted to come with the hardest shit. That’s all I knew. I never thought I would be making a song with Chris Brown or R. Kelly.
“But even though I was a hard dude, I played P.M. Dawn. I played De La Soul and Native Tongues. I would bump A Tribe Called Quest in my car all day. But my preference for making music was hardcore, gangster shit. Still, to this day, my preference is making hard shit.”